Jan. 30, 2013
|#8 ARIZONA AT WASHINGTON
Thursday, Jan. 31 | 6:00 pm (PT) | Alaska Airlines Arena
Live Stats | TV: ESPN | BUY TICKETS
Radio: KJR 950 AM & 102.9 FM (Affiliates)
By Gregg Bell- UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE- If you haven't noticed - or perhaps if you've lived at sea for, oh, the last eight years -- Dawgs versus `Cats has indeed become epic.
- Dec. 31, 2005: Brandon Roy brings UW back from six down with 51 seconds to go and forces overtime with a 3-pointer, on a move that almost breaks his Arizona defender's ankle. Then at the end of the first overtime he leans between two Wildcats to make another 3, forcing a second overtime. Lute Olson's `Cats eventually win 96-95 amid the bedlam of Alaska Airlines Arena, but Roy's rockin' New Year's Eve lives on in Huskies' lore.
- Feb. 19, 2011: Arizona's brick wall Derrick Williams blocks two shots in the lane in the final 3 seconds that would have won the game for Washington, including one by Darnell Gant at the rim. UW's rally from 14 points down falls short amid a wild white out in Tucson, 87-86.
- March 12, 2011: Less than a month after that thrilling night in the desert, Isaiah Thomas plays all 45 minutes and scores 28 points. He takes the ball for the final 10 seconds, demands a clear out, steps back and fires the famously "cold-blooded" swish from deep that sends UW over top-seeded Arizona 77-75 for the Pac-10 tournament championship at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It remains an I-remember-where-I-was-when moment for Dawg fans.
- Jan. 28, 2012: C.J. Wilcox hits two mammoth free throws amid ear-splitting noise inside the over-capacity McKale Center to give UW a 69-67 lead with 5 seconds remaining. Then Tony Wroten capped his 17-point day with a stone-cold block of his buddy Josiah Turner at the rim just before the buzzer sounded to stun another crazy, white-out crowd in Tucson. The Huskies win for the fifth time in six meetings with Arizona.
- Jan. 31, 2013: We will found out Thursday night at Alaska Airlines Arena.
That's when the needy Huskies (12-8, 4-3 Pac-12) attempt to end their starting, three-game losing streak against No. 8 Arizona (17-2, 5-2). ESPN knows what this series can offer; it is broadcasting the game nationally again. The Washington IMG College network has the radio call, and we'll have another exclusive, live Huskies' game chat here on GoHuskies.com from courtside.
"We need to play at our highest level," said Lorenzo Romar, who is 13-10 against the Wildcats in 11 seasons as UW's coach. "And we need our crowd to be at its highest level.
"And I know what that highest level is. I remember what it was when we won 32 straight (against non-conference foes) here," Romar said, alluding to a streak that ended last season.
We need to play at our highest level. And we need our crowd to be at its highest level.
Romar remembers his first, 10-17 season at Washington. Arizona came to Seattle ranked No. 2 early in 2003 before a raucous, beyond-capacity crowd of 10,028 helped Nate Robinson, Bobby Jones and transitioning Washington push the Wildcats into overtime. The Huskies eventually lost 88-85, but a tone was set that has lasted a decade.
The following season, UW began league play 0-5. Romar recalls only about 8,500 showed up to Alaska Airlines Arena when Arizona visited. Those who didn't missed the 5-foot-9 Robinson soaring for an alley-oop dunk - "the place went crazy," Romar said. Robinson's 31-point outburst led the Huskies over the No. 9 Wildcats.
It's one of the only times in Romar's tenure Arizona hasn't prompted a zany, sold-out house at ol' Hec Edmundson Pavilion, collegiate basketball's winningest home court.
Washington hasn't had a sellout yet this uneven season, though it may Thursday. As of early Wednesday afternoon, UW said it had distributed 8,175 tickets for this latest renewal of a tense rivalry.
What's all this history - and fan histrionics - have to do with the Huskies' quest to get a huge win and climb back into the conference race Thursday, and then Saturday at home against Arizona State (16-4, 5-2)?
"It's a whole different world when you are in here and it's packed," Romar said Tuesday at Alaska Airlines Arena before practice.
Having intensity from the opening jump has been a problem this season at times for Washington, though its pattern has been to play its best and be its most ready when the opponents are the best.
The Huskies didn't lose Saturday at now-No. 10 Oregon because it lacked focus early; they shot a season-best 65 percent in the first half on the packed home court of the Pac-12's only unbeaten team.
They lost because they allowed the Ducks to turn a three-point lead into a double-digit edge in one, lost minute of the second half, when UW added a few of its damning 21 turnovers.
"It's a big focus for us these next two games to start off fast, to hit them first," said senior point guard and co-captain Abdul Gaddy, who is coming off one of his season's most aggressive and determined games at Oregon.
"It's a big week for us. We see these as must-wins for ourselves."
Wilcox, the Pac-12 leader at an average of 20 points per game in league play, is likely to see much more from Arizona's talented, tall backcourt of what he's gotten the last three games. That's face guarding by defenders that aren't looking at the ball and sometimes even have their backs to it as they deny the sharpshooting junior any good looks.
Utah did that while upsetting Washington, then 4-0 in the league, two Saturdays ago. Oregon State and Oregon followed suit in winning over UW last week in the Willamette Valley.
Wilcox says he hasn't seen this kind of attention and bumping since he was tearing up Utah in Pleasant Grove High School outside Salt Lake City.
"It's different at this level. It's definitely frustrating, trying to get started early," he said.
Wilcox says even head and eye fakes haven't worked.
"They are pretty much locked into my jersey," he said. "The only thing I can do is run them into screens."
The Huskies think they may be developing a scoring alternative from the perimeter as teams dial in on Wilcox. Slashing, fearless redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews scored 15 points - two off his career high - while playing a near-starter-like 27 minutes last weekend at Oregon. He entered 2 minutes into the game for Gaddy, then spent much of the game playing with him in a two point-guard look.
Romar says Andrews has earned the need to play more, and that he will.
"Everyone has their own personal thing to get them going," Andrews said. "Mine is toughness."
That will come in handy Thursday night in this latest brawl of Dawgs and `Cats.